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Photo-Essay Review  

The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns of the South
By Bonnie Ramsey, photography by Dennis OíKain
Thames & Hudson, 2000
ISBN: 0-500-01999-1


Thames & Hudson joined with Veranda magazine to publish the first American setting of their series on the most beautiful villages of the world.  Bonnie Ramsey, contributing editor of Veranda and Director of Communications at the Georgia Museum of Art, wrote the commentary for the images captured by architectural photographer Dennis OíKain. 

The coast presents a variety of architectural influences and structural material from wood to tabby.  Air circulation is key as coastal homes are designed for cross ventilation to capture the sea breeze on those hot, humid summer days. 

From the Kentucky Derby to the Carolina Cup, horse racing is a social event.  The old stable at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina is now The Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.  The images capture the glamour associated with horse culture.

The rolling hills of the Piedmont South present the grand horse farm and quaint village homes.  The villages are showing a rebirth of preservation as those who left for the cities return.  Homes that have existed since the Revolutionary War or missed Shermanís March to the Sea give a glimpse into the past.  While college towns like Athens, Georgia created lovely gardens as learning centers for southern horticulture.   In fact, twelve Athens ladies founded the first garden club in the United States in 1936.

The rivers bordering southern towns provided commerce and trade for the region.  Eutaw, Alabama would say the rivers provide floods, too.  But the homes along the Black Warrior River have survived.  The Italianate mansions of Eufaula, Alabama and the Greek Revival mansions of Natchez, Mississippi are tributes to when cotton was king.

Churches and cemeteries are strongly linked to southern culture and traditions.  These settings of church sings, dinner on the grounds, and reflection on the past are graced with art sculptures and headstones with profound epitaphs.  

The upcountry of Appalachia, the Ozarks and the Texas Hill Country offer a variety of customs and cuisine that echo the settlers.  From the Tennessee log cabins to the limestone structures in Texas, each uses the regionís resources and architectural design that compliments the locale.

For those enticed to visit the locales in person, the book provides a travelerís guide and bibliography.  This is a beautiful table book that gives armchair travelers a taste of southern history, gardening, architecture, and folk art.


Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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